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A self-inflicted wound: the Confederacy's guerrilla campaign in Arkansas, 1862-1865
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The American Civil War, as one of the first modern wars, contained both conventional and unconventional aspects. The war in Arkansas from 1862 to 1865 was no exception. It was both a conventional conflict between warring armies and an unconventional war fought by Federal counter-guerrilla troops and Confederate partisans. By the final year of the war, the guerrilla conflict became "the war" in Arkansas, a conflict as vicious and cruel as any in twentieth century. The Confederacy planned, organized, and attempted to fight a guerrilla war in Arkansas, and failed miserably. The reasons for their failure are threefold. First, the Rebel leadership failed to employ their guerrillas under a clear strategic plan. Instead, they haphazardly raised guerrilla units in 1862, set them loose in Arkansas' hinterlands, and promptly lost control of the partisans. Secondly, the Union Army's adaptability doomed the Confederates. The Federals employed a wide range of programs that isolated and defeated the guerrilla bands. Finally, the Confederates failed to consider the impact of a widespread guerrilla war on the state's civilian population. By neglecting to supply their guerrillas, Arkansas' Rebel leadership forced the isolated irregular bands to prey on the locals for survival. Consequently, the civilian population fled the guerrilla-infested areas of northern Arkansas to either Texas, Missouri, or to the Federal lines. In any case, the Confederates robbed themselves of Arkansas' bountiful farms by 1864, when their isolation from the eastern Confederacy forced their self-sufficiency. The failure of the Confederacy's guerrilla war in Arkansas refutes the argument made by Richard Beringer, Herman Hattaway, Archer Jones and William N. Still in Why the South Lost the Civil War. They contend that the Confederacy, after Appomattox, could have resorted to guerrilla warfare to defeat the Union Army. However, Arkansas' example demonstrates that any attempt to fight a Confederacy-wide unconventional conflict would have led to the ultimate isolation and destruction of the Rebel guerrillas by Federal counter-guerrilla forces, and to the destitution and despoiling of the people of the South by their own guerrillas. Arkansas' guerrilla war, with its atrocities and carnage, would have been repeated across the entire South.
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Mackey, Robert Russell (1997). A self-inflicted wound: the Confederacy's guerrilla campaign in Arkansas, 1862-1865. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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